Mobilized African Diaspora at Columbia University

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What We Want

To read the full demand letter to see our introduction and all of the citations of our claims, see here: Full Demand Letter

We clearly and without hesitation demand:

1. Columbia University fulfill its responsibilities to the people of West Harlem.

Our surrounding community has been irrevocably damaged through resident evictions, campus expansions, and support of increased policing in the name of “student safety”. We demand that Columbia University repay these debts by advocating against the over-policing and surveillance of West Harlem, committing resources to Black-run community organizations, supporting local Black-owned businesses, and providing employment and affordable housing to those that have been affected by its expansion. We require a shift from monetary centered support to outcome centered support, as well as ownership of the successes/challenges of the West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) in fulfilling Columbia’s Community Benefits Agreement. Actions include, but are not limited to:

      a. Employment:

            i. Commit 50% of Columbia’s Approved Vendors List to local Black-owned businesses and ensure that local Black-owned businesses are utilized for Columbia’s construction and renovation projects through an expanded partnership with CU Grow

            ii. Ensure that 50% of retail space within the Manhattanville General Project Area is used by local Black-owned businesses, with priority given to those directly affected by Columbia’s expansion

            iii. Implement the recommendations of the Minority-, Women- and Locally-Owned (MWL) Construction Trades Certificate Mentorship Program, with specific focus on creating a streamlined pathway to union membership for local residents

            iv. Coordinate with WHDC to create a pipeline of employment through both the West Harlem Skills Training Center and the Columbia Employment Information Center

            v. Increase job placement targets for local applicants by 50% in the next year and 100% in the next 3 years

      b. Education:

            i. Permanently maintain Columbia’s financial support for Teacher’s College Community School (TCCS) and provide a single site for school operations

            ii. Increase financial support for Columbia Secondary School through a combination of annual awards and endowment donations

                  1. Annual donations of 750,000 to fund subsidized programming for low-income students

                  2. Annual endowment donations of 1 million for a period of 10 years to facilitate eventual financial self-sufficiency

      c. Affordable Housing:

            i. Explicitly denounce the use of eminent domain and stand with tenant activists

            ii. Establish an HDFC resource center and provide financial assistance to HDFCs struggling due to COVID-19

            iii. Fund 2 attorneys, beyond the $4 million allocated in the CBA, at a legal assistance provider chosen by community members

            iv. Collaborate with WHDC to develop/rehabilitate affordable housing

            v. Ensure that 32% of all ongoing and future residential construction projects built by Columbia are permanently low-income units (50%-80% AMI) sold with priority to local buyers

            vi. Permanently maintain rent-controlled and rent-stabilized prices of units in all privately-owned buildings currently owned by Columbia, as well as those purchased in the future

      d. Expansion:

            i. End predatory redevelopment efforts and release a public statement on Columbia’s website condemning the use of eminent domain in any future construction or renovation projects

            ii. Advocate for the abandonment of the Union Theological Seminary 42-story high-rise

            iii. Relocate Columbia Secondary School to the former location of McDonalds on 125th as promised and do not build a high-rise

                  1. Conduct a second neighborhood conditions report on this location by an independent organization chosen by community members

      e. Long-Term Solutions:

            i. Eliminate the “Term” date of the Community Benefits Agreement and the Affordable Housing Fund found in Section XI.E of the CBA

            ii. Create a community trust fund whose income will be used to support West Harlem residents indefinitely and ensure that Columbia’s community support matches that of peer institutions in the long term

            iii. Schedule quarterly meetings with university stakeholders and community representatives (Community Boards, non-profits, NYCHA resident leaders) to discuss new/ongoing initiatives

            iv. Deposit $1,000,000 in various local minority-owned banks and credit unions in the greater Harlem area

            v. Create special ID cards for Community Board 9 residents and families to ensure their access to Columbia University amenities and buildings as promised in Section II.E of the CBA

            vi. Mandate an educational requirement for all incoming first-year students during NSOP that mirrors the current structure of Under1Roof and requires students to engage in critical conversations with Community Board 9 members regarding the relationship between Columbia University and Harlem

2. Columbia University end all support for the NYPD.

      a. Disclose with full transparency Columbia’s relationship to the NYPD. We understand that Columbia maintains no contract with the NYPD and is mandated by New York state law to cooperate in investigations. However, we require more information regarding the extent of communication between Public Safety and the NYPD, any donations Columbia makes to organizations such as the New York City Police Foundation, NYPD presence in Columbia-owned real estate throughout New York, etc.

      b. End the Police Management Institute executive training program for members of the NYPD. While it is not an explicit policing contract, this $1.5 million agreement facilitates community over-policing and supports the careers of members of a deeply racist institution.

      c. Mandate the resignation of all NYPD-affiliated officers and executives, including James McShane, Vice President of Public Safety, and Timothy Malin, Director of Public Safety without severance benefits or compensation. Under the leadership of James McShane and other NYPD veterans, Public Safety has failed to keep Black and brown students safe.

3. Columbia University defund Public Safety and invest in community safety solutions that prioritize the safety of Black students.

      a. Release itemized, annual budget reports detailing funding, spending, and all financial allocation over the last ten years.

      b. Commit to an immediate hiring freeze, as well as a 50% budget reduction

            i. Re-invest Public Safety’s multimillion dollar budget into systems of support that are independent of policing and center the disproportionate violence targeting women, queer, trans*, and gender nonconforming people of color.

            ii. Establish health services that are physically open 24 hours/day for all days during which students are housed on University campus

            iii. Increase queer and trans* staff of color at SVR and expand training to ensure that sexual health professionals are equipped to address the experiences of trauma in marginalized communities and can provide immediate accompaniment to services off campus. These systems of support must include a radical restructuring of CPS, Furman, SVR, and ODS for both Barnard and Columbia, with a critical lens that centers people of marginalized identities.

            iv. The remainder of the Public Safety budget reinvestment will be decided by a Task Force, as detailed below

      c. Commit to the creation of a 1-year Community Safety Task Force. This Task Force will fully determine Public Safety’s 50% budget reallocation, review all policies and training practices of Public Safety, and release an action plan to ensure a commitment to Black student safety. The Task Force will conduct an annual University-wide Community Safety survey, similar to the Student Well-Being survey. Additionally, they will work with Bias Response to create a transparent and centralized reporting process for students/community members who have experienced Public Safety misconduct. We require the Task Force abide by the following constraints:

            i. Membership: The Task Force must consist of 50% Columbia University students, half of which must be BIPOC-identifying, 25% Faculty and 25% Harlem community members. Students on this Task Force will be elected by their peers and faculty on the Task Force must be sourced from from the following list.

            ii. Transparency: All meetings of this Task Force must be public, and meeting minutes/summaries must be made available to all students. Monthly email updates detailing the progress of the Task Force must be sent to all stakeholders, and there must be at least 3 town halls to allow for maximum student involvement.

4. Columbia University ban-the-box from all applications,

including but not limited to: the undergraduate Columbia supplement application, the General Studies application, and Law School application. The inclusion of this question weakens trust in the holistic application review process and expands the reach of police surveillance into educational spaces. By continuing to ask this question, Columbia reinforces the dehumanization of Black people by the carceral state before they even step foot on campus.

5. Columbia University improve the academic environment for Black students.

      a. Columbia University hire more Black faculty across all schools and departments, reallocate physical and financial resources for IRAAS, IRWGS, CSER, IAS, MEI, SAI, and restructure the Core Curriculum to include Intro to African-American Studies and Intro to Comparative Ethnic Studies as required Core classes.

            i. We demand that cluster hiring be extended to include Black faculty outside of STEM and scholarship relating specifically to race, as Black faculty bring incredible value to all disciplines, not just those that center around race.

            ii. We demand the creation of a pipeline program for Black humanities PhD students to be retained and moved into tenure track professor positions, with proper mentorship and monetary compensation, as well as increased funding and support for the bridge programs currently in place in STEM departments.

            iii. In Fall 2019, Columbia reports having 222 Black identifying Instruction or Research based employees across the total University, about 1.3% of all total employees and 3.3% of all Instruction or Research based employees. There are currently 0 Black tenured professors in engineering and Black professors only make up 3.7% of all tenured faculty. Supporting Black students and supporting Black professors are two sides of the same coin, Columbia cannot claim to be a diverse and inclusive institution without adequately supporting us.